Dedicated in 1971, the Rothko Chapel was built by John and Dominique de Menil as a quiet spiritual sanctuary for people of all beliefs and faiths, and as a center for championing social justice and human rights. At the inauguration, Dominique de Menil said that the chapel is rooted in the growing awareness that love and the search for truth are unifying principles. It is rooted in the growing hope that communities who worship God should find in their common aspiration the possibility of dialogue with one another in a spirit of respect and love."
The building, originally designed by Philip Johnson and carried out by architects Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry, holds a suite of 14 paintings by American Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko. An artist that de Menils considered the greatest of the time, he wanted to express the most essential human emotions with his work, from tragedy to ecstasy. Deep and dark with subtle surface variation, the paintings are installed to create an immersive environment that reflects on the transformative power of art and its impact on humanity.
This documentary, completed in 1972 by filmmakers Jerry Michaels and Francois de Menil, takes us inside the chapel. Along with interviews with the de Menils about their decision to commission Rothko in 1964, and the spiritual goals of the building, the film consists of slow shots of the interior and captures the contemplative mission of the space through shots of visitors quietly experiencing the art and architecture. Also included is rare archival footage of Mrs. de Menil dedicating the chapel to the people of Houston in 1971, and interviews with those who worked with Rothko during the installation of the paintings.
The film concludes with three religious ceremonies at the chapel: a Catholic service, a Presbyterian lent service and an Islamic prayer. A simple and poignant convergence of faith, it symbolizes the greater political goals and aspirations of peace and community that continues to be evermore important in the world as the Rothko Chapel celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2011. Now listed in the National Registry of Historic places, and included in National Geographic's list of the World's Most Peaceful and Powerful Places, it remains as a vital spiritual source for its visitors.
- Length: 68 minutes
- DVD extras include a 14-minute short version of the film.
- Format: DVD, NTSC